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some men seem to make no account) vindicates the honour of his majesty, his government, and laws, by punishing those who have despised and trampled upon them all. Here scripture closes the scene, and shuts out all hope or prospect of redemption or deliverance. But vain men, affecting to appear wiser or better than God, have taken upon them to teach, without any warrant from his word, that to the damned also shall sometime be given the knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins 4. What they have to offer for this scheme, and how well they defend it, I am to consider more distinctly in the next chapter.
9 Luke i. 77.
CHAP. IV. Concerning the system of the restoration, or rees
I HAVE hitherto been employed in maintaining our own tenets; I must now advance, as it were, into the enemy's country, and examine how they defend theirs. If the punishment of the wicked in the other world is ever to have an end, it must be because they are either delivered from it, and restored to a state of happiness, or else because they are reduced to nothing. As there are two ways then by which this change may be effected, I desire the patrons of a restoration to consider, in the first place, that though they could disprove our doctrine, yet that does by no means directly prove their own. Supposing for once that eternal punishment is unjust and impossible, it does not thereby follow that the punishment in hell will be exchanged for a state of happiness; for it may end in a state of neither happiness nor misery, viz. total extinction of being. We expect therefore direct and positive proofs from scripture or reason, of their system of the reestablishment, over and above what they offer against the doctrine of eternal torments. They raise a great clamour against this doctrine, how unjust and cruel it is, and how inconsistent with the perfections of God! Be it so; it is still incumbent upon them to prove, beyond this, that the perfections of God require of him, not only that he put an end to their misery, but that he restore them to happiness and his favour; or, at least, that this is agreeable to his perfections, and what may reasonably be expected
from them, or what he has declared in his word. If this had always been considered by some particular writers, some very pathetical declamations perhaps might have been spared, as being rather beside the purpose, and not at all coming up to the point. However, to give them their due, some of them do offer at something like proper proof, and such as we want; which shall be considered presently. ·
In the mean time, before we hear their evidence, it may be proper we should know, as precisely as we can, what it is they would prove; for they do not all adopt the same system, I mean in the same extensive sense. I mentioned St. Jerom, in a note before, as making an exception in favour of Christians, at the same time that he professes to believe that the torments of the Devil, and of such wicked men as say in their hearts there is no God, will be eternal. But as this seems to be the effect only of a fond partiality, natural enough to men for those of their own sect b, I am not aware that any one now
a See Num. XXVI.
b Thus the Jews had a saying, Omnis Israel particeps erit futuri seculi : and for the meaning of this seculum futurum, see Menasseh Ben-Israel, de Resurrect. Mort. lib. iii. c. 1. So the followers of Mohammed say— “Those who have lived in this holy “ faith, and die in the belief thereof, shall undergo the purgation, “ and when it shall be God's pleasure, shall be released by the in“ tercession of his prophet, or through his benignity and cle“mency; nor shall it come to pass that any of those shall remain “ to eternity in hell, who have believed and professed, without “ scruple or doubt, that there is no God but Allah, and that Mu“ hammat is the messenger of Allah : and those who in this life “ hold not that tenet, nor believe therein, shall remain in bell for “ever, where, in company with the devils, (accursed may they “ be,) they shall be tortured with many sorts of torments." Motraye's Travels, vol. i. in the Appendix, p. 355.
will undertake formally to defend it. It would be strange, if wicked Christians should come off better than any other wicked men, or be less affected by the sanctions of the gospel. But then, if we may not limit this system of a restoration to men of our own religion, must it not however be limited to creatures of our own species ? or must we take in the Devil and his angels? I conceive a genuine and consistent Origenist must take in all, if he would not ruin his own scheme; all beings, with him, must sooner or later return to order; and there must be an universal restoration, or none. For if he grants that one race of free creatures may render thémselves incurably wicked and miserable, beyond all help and remedy, this may open a gap for such a train to follow, as will go near to blow up the ground on which he stands. For if angels may become eternally miserable, then, as to the possibility of the thing, why not men ? and if it be consistent with the perfections of God to permit the former, why not the latter? Besides, the whole work of God is not restored ; the old leaven of malice and wickedness, of natural and moral evil, is still supposed to be eternally fermenting in a considerable portion of the creation ; when it was, I conceive, the Origenist's point to prove, that, behold, all things are become. new; or rather, are restored to their original rectitude and goodness. They must therefore, to be consistent, hold an universal restoration of men and devils; and this is in fact what they do maintain c.
See a Letter of Resolution concerning Origen and the chief of his opinions, 4to. p. 74. and 130, 131. And the Letter Writer, mentioned before, in his 288, &c. page.
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Thus much for the extent and universality of this restoration; but,
We have still a question or two to ask with regard to the nature of it: Must the devils be restored to the angelic dignity of their first estate, and repossess the habitation which they left? and must men be made partakers of that kingdom of heaven, out of which they were excluded at the day of judgment? or must both be content with such a share of happiness, somewhere or other, as will make their condition more eligible than nonexistence? These are different things, and the proof of one does not necessarily prove the other. If the justice or goodness of God requires the latter, viz. that their existence be better than not being ; do both, or either of them, require the former too? Surely he is not obliged to give them supreme felicity, and to make them altogether the same that they would have been, if they had never offended. Yet the authors just referred to sometimes seem to talk in this strain, and their terms of restitution, restoration, reestablishment, &c. in the rigour of them, may imply it. However, to prevent unnecessary dispute, we will content ourselves with saying, in general, that the beings concerned, so far from subsisting for ever in a state of condemnation and misery in hell, will be restored to happiness (more or less) and the favour of God. 1 still want to be satisfied, whether this passage from misery to happiness is to be immediate. Is their purification or reformation (call it what you will) to be begun in hell ? or, if begun, is it likewise to be completed there; so that they may go directly into a state of happiness ? or, after they have suffered so